Rabbi Shneur Zalman coined the phrase, “living with the times” which means to live life in the light of the weekly Torah portion; and to see it as an indicator for all that happens to us throughout the week—both on a personal and national level. Thus, while some headlines may take effort to source in the weekly Torah portion, the recent story of police disguised as IDF in Yitzhar was relatively easy.
This Shabbat we will read the Torah portion of Shlach which recounts the sin of the spies. The lesson for us today is when scouting out an area within the Land of Israel, we need to be careful how we respond to what we see. This is especially so during the week of the Torah portion of Shlach.
In our recent reenactment of the story, before the ‘spies’ could even return from their ‘report,’ the ruse was discovered. To capture the storyline using modern terminology, the drama became a comedy and the ‘audience’ who witnessed this event unfold started to laugh.
The intention is not that the police should become a ‘laughing stock,’ but that we should all view this event as an opportunity to take stock, and laugh from the great delight achieved in rectifying the sin of the spies. Thus our hope is that the police will also desire to turn the drama into a comedy. That both police and residents, and the entire Jewish nation, will soon laugh together in friendship and camaraderie.
The spies’ mistake was that they interpreted what they saw and they over-dramatized what they thought was negative. Moshe sent them to see the Land of Israel and to report back only what they had seen (nothing more nothing less).
Initially, the spies may have gazed at the land with their right eye and see it for what it was—a land of milk and honey, overflowing with the abundance of God’s blessings. But, they also chose to gaze at the land with the power of their left eye—they chose to interpret their findings. The metaphoric images used by the spies to describe the military strength of the Canaanite inhabitants of the land are some of the most powerful in the entire Torah. The spies said: “The land we explored devours its inhabitants. All the people we saw there are giants. We saw the Nephilim [strain of giants] there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
To undo the damage, we must first fix our left eye. In other words we must learn how to portray reality correctly and in a positive way. As the prophet Isaiah stated a few hundred years after the spies’ mission: “If you shall yearn for it [the Land of Israel] and hear [the word of God], then you shall eat the good of the land.” The last part of the verse—“then you shall eat the good of the land”—reflects the result of the final state of rectification when we shall merit to return to our holy land and enjoy its bounty, freely and without fear.
From Drama to Comedy
We mentioned that the spontaneous laughter that occurred after the ‘soldiers’ were discovered to be police should not be viewed as a reason to make the police into a laughing stock, but to provide for an opportunity for us all to take stock. But in addition to fostering a sense of friendship and camaraderie within the Jewish people, there is another thought to have in mind. That the laughter that results from transforming a drama into a comedy should lead to the ultimate joy of eating the “good of the land” freely and without fear.